“Katy Carlisle helps people to create lovely websites using a tool called Squarespace. She’s also the founder of Freelance Folk, an award-winning community for freelancers that runs popup coworking social events in Manchester and Sheffield.
She likes sustainability, food and animals. Which is lucky, as she lives in the Peak District with her boyfriend, two cats and two dogs.
Why I Love my Weird Portfolio Career
I was chatting with some other small business owners a few weeks ago and we started talking about the jobs that we’d had before becoming self-employed. Some of them were quite surprising!
It got me thinking about the jobs that I’ve had on the route to becoming a freelance Squarespace whisperer. Rather than just recreating my LinkedIn profile, I’ve decided to make things a bit more interesting and hand out awards to my former roles.
Possibly the world’s worst waitress, in fact.
My first ever job was working for the Boddington Arms Pub in Wilmslow. The whole terrible affair came about when I asked one of the parentals for a clothing allowance, to which she responded, “Yes, but you have to try and get a job first”. Most 15 year olds would have nailed this; making it look like they’d tried to find work but been turned down at every opportunity.
Annoyingly for me, I was a GOOD GIRL. And I liked to do things properly (to be fair, I still do). I didn’t deliberately mess up the application form or “accidentally” get the interview time wrong. And I got the stupid job. Amazingly, I lasted six months despite regular excellent service which included dropping a (used) fork in a man’s pint and spilling a jug of water so that every single person seated around the table somehow ended up getting soaked. I had one couple who “dined and dashed” as well, but I think my highlight was getting a 2p tip. Like, they had to actively leave TWO PENCE.
Most Surprising Job
Yes, it’s weird. I’m a generally decent person with a strong ethical framework. Plus I’m really bad at sales.
However I did, and still do, really like houses.
At University, I’d spend most of my time watching Sarah Beeny roll her eyes as couples ignored her patronising-but-ultimately-sensible advice. I was looking forward to pretending to be one half of Kirsty and Phil, and showing people round houses on viewings. Unfortunately, the location that I worked from was deemed too dangerous for a girl to show people round unaccompanied, so I was consigned to the office. I don’t think I got to see the inside of a single house in the months that I was there.
The deal breaker for me though was the income structure. You got a bit of commission for completed house sales, which I was quite good at as it was just matching people with places and not being overly evil or incompetent, but the rest mainly came from upselling mortgages. The problem was that I just couldn’t in good conscience recommend our in-house mortgage advisor. It had also been marketed as a graduate scheme role, but it became apparent pretty quickly that nobody had actually put a scheme in place, and after six months not a single person remained from the ten that had started.
Most Obvious Future Career Hint That Was Ignored For 10 Years
MA in French to English Translation
This technically wasn’t a job, but I was working full time whilst studying. My workplace was conveniently located next door to the lecture theatre and my lectures were extremely conveniently timed at 1pm and 5pm, so I would run over as soon as my lunchbreak started or my working day ended.
Anyway, I digress. For my Masters I had to do a dissertation, which consisted of a large translation of our choosing, plus some boring academic theory. I just about scraped a pass on the theory side, but got great marks for the practical part, which was… [drumroll please] the translation and redesign of a French website. Naturally, I then went on to work as a teacher and in the charity sector for another decade until I finally listened to my webby calling 😂
My final award is more of a thank you to an organisation that I used to work for.
Lifetime Contribution Award
I started working at this non-profit in 2011, and it’s here that everything begins to make a bit more sense. My teaching experience was actually relevant, as I was project managing the education programme, and they even wanted a bit of sales experience so I was able to refer to my time as an estate agent during the interview.
During the three years I worked for Positive Impact, my role evolved to focus more on managing their online systems, as I finally embraced my inner geek. Seriously, at one point I swear I had a montage of all the clues that been left for me along the way. It wasn’t just the dissertation! My friend Sally and I had taught ourselves HTML to make Geocities websites in 1998, I did a project on the use of technology in the classroom as part of my teacher training… The list went on.
So I’m really grateful to my former boss Fiona, who gave me the space to develop and figure all of this out. She’s really inspiring and passionate about people living the lives that they want, even though sometimes this backfires on her as there are quite a few of us who were so inspired that we left to set up our own businesses! It’s all worked out brilliantly though, as Positive Impact are now my clients so it’s lovely to still be involved with what they’re up to, plus I get to go along to their Christmas do. Yay!
One of my former colleagues Charlie (who now works as a florist) nailed it. “It’s like Hotel California. You can check out, but you never leave”.